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April 27, 1986|KEVIN THOMAS

Ever since he turned to directing, Clint Eastwood always has tried to balance the Dirty Harrys and other action films with more personal and gentle efforts such as "Breezy," "Bronco Billy" and Honkytonk Man, a 1982 production having its TV premiere at 9 p.m. Sunday on ABC. One of Eastwood's best both as star and director, it casts him as an ailing, hard-living country singer whose one last chance is a Grand Ole Opry audition--if he can make it. The film has a great Depression look and mood, and Eastwood has never seemed at once so gallant and vulnerable. Eastwood's own son Kyle plays his adoring nephew. (Also airing this week: Eastwood's highly stylized and ambiguous Western, High Plains Drifter, Channel 5 at 8 p.m. Thursday.)

Also airing at 9 p.m. Sunday will be Resting Place (a new TV production on CBS) and The Cartier Affair (a repeat of the 1984 TV movie on NBC). The first stars John Lithgow in a drama about a small town's struggle in the early 1970s to overcome prejudice and permit the burial of a black Vietnam War hero in a "white" cemetery. The second is a glittery caper starring Joan Collins, David Hasselhoff and Telly Savalas.

"The Disney Sunday Movie" on ABC at 7 p.m. will feature the TV premiere of the vintage animated feature-length version of Robin Hood.

An Early Frost, the highly praised TV movie that deals with a family coping with its AIDS-stricken son, is repeating on NBC at 9 p.m. Monday. Aidan Quinn, Ben Gazzara, Gena Rowlands and Sylvia Sidney star.

Airing at 8 p.m. Monday on Channel 5 is Harper, that terrific Ross MacDonald detective mystery with Paul Newman in the title role. Jack Smight directed from William Goldman's adaptation of MacDonald's "The Moving Target."

Midnight Cowboy, the memorable rendering of James Leo Herlihy's tale of a naive cowboy turned Times Square hustler (Jon Voight) and his seedy pal (Dustin Hoffman) who dream of success in Florida, airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday on Channel 13. At the same time, Channel 5 will be showing Convoy, one of Sam Peckinpah's lesser efforts.

Yet another drama of affliction, the 1983 TV movie Thursday's Child (9 p.m. Wednesday on CBS) is an archetypal by-the-numbers, manipulative account of a 17-year-old boy (Rob Lowe) who has to undergo a heart transplant. Don Murray and Gena Rowlands are his parents.

That nifty thriller, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, in which transit detective Walter Matthau struggles to outwit subway hijacker Robert Shaw, comes along at 8 p.m. Wednesday on Channel 13. At 9 p.m. Wednesday on Channel 11 is Allan Dwan's fine war film The Sands of Iwo Jima, starring John Wayne. Don't overlook Say Amen, Somebody (Channel 28 Wednesday at 10 p.m.), George T. Nierenberg's irresistible documentary on gospel music and its magnificent singers.

Martin Cruz Smith's thoroughly involving mystery Gorky Park (Channel 13 Thursday at 8 p.m.) arrived on the screen in 1983 cold and dead to the core, its cat's cradle of pulls and balances between Moscow cop William Hurt and Manhattan cop Brian Dennehy gone slack. The exceedingly complicated plot turns upon three mutilated corpses discovered in a wooded skating park in the heart of Moscow. Faring best is Lee Marvin's rapacious yet low-key American fur importer.

The Wild Geese (Channel 11 Friday at 9 p.m.) is an action adventure which finds Richard Burton as a mercenary attempting to rescue a kidnaped African leader.

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